[Newbies] Learning Squeak [Was "Smart Paper"?]

Rob Rothwell r.j.rothwell at gmail.com
Sun Jul 6 01:57:45 UTC 2008

On Sat, Jul 5, 2008 at 2:13 PM, Steven Claflin <stevenclaflin at gmail.com>

> Hi Rob,
> I wanted to thank you for your email to the list and your struggles. I
> am just beginning to learn about Squeak and being an old procedural
> programmer (PDP-11), OOP in general is kind of backwards to my way of
> thinking, and so I can identify with your feeling as though you are just
> not online all the way. The first programming that I did that was at all
> object oriented was in Visual Basic many years ago, and I can remember
> thinking; "Ok, these buttons and windows and textboxes can react to
> actions, but how do you start the whole thing going?" It's kind of
> laughable now, but at the time I was used to: first you have the
> computer do one thing, then the next thing, and so on... So its like I
> was sitting there waiting for the program to do something and the
> program was sitting there waiting for me to do something.

When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to learn was Assembly Language.  I
wanted to write my own OS, that was an interactive, lively, interpreted
system.  I only got as far as booting into protected mode with a keyboard,
mouse, timer, and video driver which went straight into a split screen (text
mode) debugger complete with disassembler.  It actually still runs on x86
architecture, but, little did I know what was out there waiting...!  I alway
figure if I get far enough I would really enjoy the VM side of Smalltalk a

I, too, am heavily experienced in VB.  Still use it a lot (VBA) at work,
just because Excel and Access are hard to beat as a "Business Language."
 (Although my dream system is a combination Database Browsing/Query engine
that returns recordsets into a Smalltalk driven spreadsheet with a built in
statistical package and a "process oriented" calculation engine!  But, I
digress...).  Coming from the VB angle, though, I really like events, and
have become quite enamored with Announcements.  Maybe too much so, but it is
what I always wanted in VB!  (How many times did you hack returning an
OBJECT from a "dialog").  However, learning Smalltalk has made me and my
co-worker much better VB programmers nonetheless.  We tend to just start
with a Class now, and write lots of really small, stupid methods.  The
"browser" makes it a little harder to work through the code, but we can each
sort of pick up the others work if we need to now and figure out what is
going on.  We are working on transitioning more and more to Squeak, but it's
hard to beat Access right now for a utility that runs lots of queries,
etc... (hence, my dream system!)

I am hoping that as I go through the material, ideas which aren't
> immediately understandable will become so after getting more info. It's
> hard to do that, because it makes me feel uncomfortable to feel as
> though I'm not getting it. When I was going to school for my degree in
> electronics there was a lot of that, and that turned out ok.

I studied Physics long ago (Ohio University, 1990).  I am NOT a physicist,
but it taught me how to think, experiment, problem solve.  But as an
electronics guy, you might understand how when you get to quantum mechanics
in Physics everyone waves their magic wand and says, "and from here we have
demonstrated that you can derive all of Chemistry..."  Smalltalk is more
like Chemistry, it seems.  Yes, you CAN "derive" it all from basic
principles (messages), but it is just so...wonderfully...messy.  Makes me
wonder why I didn't like Chemistry...

However, the best part of Physics (at least at OU), was that from the very
beginning they said, "just believe what I tell you.  It will make sense in
the end."  My last two quarters of Astrophysics were a blast!  EVERYTHING
came together...

And so, I am in "belief" mode...just keep moving forward, asking questions,
etc... You see, I have the upper hand in knowing that a slow learner like
myself can see it all come together at an undetermined point in the future!
 Sounds like you have had a similar experience.

> Good luck, hopefully we'll get it. :-)

Thanks...you too.  Let me know if I can help from a point of view that can
understand what you are having a hard time with!  I will rarely be much help
to the guys who are building the tools we are using (except to get better
about bug reporting), but I can likely help someone at a similar experience
level.  I am at the point now where my own classes make sense to me at
least; trying to figure out what someone else did just isn't easy for me.

Take care,

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